Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

CR-Compressor Report Summary

Project ID: 712659

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CR-Compressor (Centric Recipocating Compressor)

Reporting period: 2016-04-01 to 2016-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Since November 2013 OTE issued a program for the development of a new type compressor for air and gases, based on our disruptive and patented core Centric Reciprocal Technology (Centric Reciprocating Technology). The CRC advantage is the centric configuration of the working components. They rotate in the same direction, so very little friction and mechanical fatigue is caused. Very little energy is lost in waste heat. No valves simplify the design still further. Water is used to cool instead of oil, so the compressed air is clean. Our current 22kW/30hp air compressor unit can deliver a constant stream of particle free, dry and completely oil-free compressed air at a flow rate of 270cfm / 460m3/h. The subsequent compressed air can be fed directly to many high value high-specification industrial and manufacturing processes.

Market needs:

Technical: Compressed air has become an indispensable resource for industry, and three quarters of our manufacturing installations have some form of air compression equipment in-house, where it is used to drive machinery, robotic production lines and a vast range of chemical processes. Air compression technology is long established and very widely used, and compression equipment almost never operates at anything close to efficiency. As much as 90% of all energy fed into air compression systems is lost through waste heat in the compression chamber, friction between moving parts, pressure disequilibria in piping systems, poor control of supply and demand peaks, or production overruns.

Air compression equipment are omnipresent in industry, but the CRC project and its innovation outcome address a very specific sector and function. Air compressors are an indispensable subcomponent of all nitrogen generators. The Fire Safety Systems Code (FCC) and the International Bulk Chemical Code (IBC) of the International Maritime Organisation oblige all oil and gas tankers with over 8000 DWT cargo capacity and platform supply vessels to have an inert gas generator on board. The same rule applies to vessels powered by liquefied natural gas. Inert nitrogen is used as a ‘chemical blanket’ to isolate cargo tanks and electrical equipment, purge fuel piping, inhibit unwanted chemical reactions in cargo tanks during transport, and purge any residual hydrocarbon vapours after unloading. Nitrogen generators operate within strictly defined parameters and must have a supply of clean air at an optimal and constant pressure and temperature to perform at maximum output.

Industrial: Compressed gas generating equipment is big business and the entire sector is worth €19.3bn and is growing steadily at 7.1% per annum and should reach €27.2bn in 2020. Generating compressed air is an energy intensive process and accounts for around 70% of the lifetime costs of a compressor system, regardless of size or intensity of use. About 10% of all the electricity consumed by European industry is used to drive compressed air systems, around 80TWh of energy per year, or the equivalent of the entire annual electricity production of Belgium or the Czech Republic . Energy prices are a major part of the final production costs for many industrial processes, and industrial users pay an average of 120/MWh for their electricity, well above competitor nations such as China, The USA, Korea and Brazil. The dramatic fluctuations seen in energy prices in recent years make long term planning very difficult, discourage investment for expansion, and undermine our competitiveness. Air compression equipment manufacturers can do much for their downstream industrial partners by solving the challenges of reducing energy inputs needed by air compressors, innovating the design to minimise heat losses through friction on moving parts, developing compressor systems which capture and use waste heat, which do away with oil, and integrating better control systems that eliminate excess compressed air production.

Environmental: An inescapable consequence of heavy energy consumption is the production of greenhouse emissions and the acceleration of the greenhouse effect: the 80TWh of electricity generation in Europe releases 56mt of CO2 to the atmosphere each year if the primary energy source is fossil fuel. Europe is committed to containing the rise in world temperatures to no more than 2°C by 2050, which to many climate scientists implies nothing less than a zero CO2 emissions economy. This is a monumental task which requires colossal reinvestment in new technology in our energy intensive industries. Compressor systems need lubricating oil which must be filtered out of the compressed airstream prior to its use, and this too supposes another financial cost and waste disposal challenge that compressor manufacturers need to solve.

The overall CRC Feasibility Study objective is to validate CRC’s market and commercial viability in the market for nitrogen production generators installed on board seagoing hydrocarbon tankers.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

We have carried out a full market needs analysis, including interviews with significant and world class industry players, economic market and competitor product assessment; revision of product development costs, price structure of the final product and anticipated revenues; development of the business plan including risk and results dissemination strategies; IP management including freedom to operate analysis and IP strategy; maturation of plans for the full pre-commercial pilot of the CRC prototype via selection of suitable test partners; and development of the Phase 2 development plan.

The main conclusion reached through the Feasibility Study is that the project to develop CRC for commercialisation should continue as there is clearly a high market demand for the product and little signs of mature market competition up to the present day. Furthermore, the strategic business plan has been reinforced through the positive response and interest to participate in piloting CRC in real environment of manufacturers of nitrogen generation equipment for the shipping sector, and through the requirements of other sectors that closely match the envisaged technical specifications and capabilities of CRC.

The decision to initially target the manufacturers of nitrogen generation equipment for the shipping sector remains unchanged although the potential applications of CRC are huge. The Feasibility Study has confirmed our initial focus on a specific and high-value sector where the distinct advantages of CRC will give it greater visibility versus the competition, a competitive edge and a greater return, and where the scale of the market is realistic for the resources of OTE.

As the anticipated profile of initial customers for CRC remain unchanged, so too do the expected price structure and projected revenues following commercialisation. Nevertheless, the market analysis has confirmed that CRC has much to offer in other sectors, and for this reason the Phase 2 project will include activities to prepare for extension to customers in this sector once the product has gained a foothold in the primary and initial industrial manufacturers of nitrogen generation areas. The Feasibility Study results support the need for very careful IPR management both during Phase 2 development and especially following initial commercialisation of CRC. Consideration of the organisations identified in the report, and ongoing monitoring for similar commercial players, will be very important to not let CRC become a victim of its own success following increased coverage upon commercialisation and subsequent growth.

The Phase 2 product development phase will see OTE make final adjustments to the CRC prototype in response to test demonstrations under real operative conditions. During this phase of development, we will benefit from funding to support the cost of implementing the solution with significant piloting partners and then incorporating feedback into the final product. Aside from leading to a stronger product, this will allow us to make essential new industrial contacts through the piloting partners and their associates, and thus effectively disseminate the benefits of using CRC. We will also benefit from the ‘Business Coaching Services’ to support our expected growth, both the impending rapid organisational growth that will accompany the commercialisation of the solution.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Our Phase I Feasibility Study revealed a need for gas compressor systems that work efficiently and need far lower energy inputs to produce a given volume of compressed gas. Energy is the principal cost during the lifetime of all industrial gas compression equipment, regardless of the intensity of use it has, and bettering the energy efficiency is the only realistic way to make significant reductions in lifetime costs. As well as lowering energy consumption, compressor systems need to be able to produce a clean airstream that does not interfere with any chemical or physical processes downstream. We list the principal novelties that make CRC an authentic breakthrough in air compressor technology and the state of the art.

- Flow control: CRC air flow rate can be set to a maximum of 270cfm / 460m3/h, and offers a high degree of control for the user, unlike centrifugal gas compression platforms which offer the end user little margin of operation around the system maximum.
- Compression ratio: V1/V2 = 7
- Energy inputs: CRC uses 30% less energy compared to reciprocating piston and rotary screw compressors at the same compressed air output rating.
- Lubrication: No oil is needed in the system. Water is injected into the compression chambers to overcome friction between moving parts.
- Valves: CRC has no internal valves to control airflow or air direction. Water acts as a sealant in the compression chambers and stops backflow. Design is simplified and mechanical reliability is increased.
- Dual cooling and lubricating: Water also captures the waste heat produced from the physical compression of air in the chambers.
- Clean: Water injection into the centric compression chamber removes any particles or chemical vapours in the incoming airstream, and means no oil in the compressed air outflow. No filtration is needed after the compression.
- Vibration: CRC rotary motion produces minimal vibration. This lowers mechanical fatigue within the unit and within any ancillary apparatus connected with the compressor.
- Noise: CRC works almost noiselessly and can be located almost anywhere in the workplace without contravening regulations on workplace noise .
- Durability: The working life of CRC is much longer than other compressor units. Fewer moving parts, low temperatures and low vibration during operation protect it from mechanical fatigue, even when under constant hand intense use.

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